Monday, March 12, 2012

$12 ?!?!?


I've bee noticing these cute little pastry cookie sandwiches on cooking shows and food blogs lately.  It's not like they are a new culinary discovery, but they just recently reached my radar and I had to make them.  I did my research and the recipe called for Almond flour.  Really? Another specialty ingredient I have to go buy and probably won't use again.  You know those ingredients that are good for one dish and you really can't purpose it for anything else.  I went to the grocery store and looked for this special "almond flour".  I went to the baking section and couldn't find it there, thinking it was not meant to be.  Then I was browsing through the gluten free section and found it there.  Much to my dismay the little bag was priced at almost $12.  I'm thinking, I really want to make them but not $12 badly.  I left the bag there and went home.  Then these little pastry cookies reached my most inner thoughts and they started haunting my dreams.  "I will taste so delicious and I am so very pretty to look at, you should make me."  I went back to the grocery store a few days later and just bought the almond flour.  I didn't have time to really cook for the next few days because I had to go away for work so these little pastry cookies and I set a date for the following Saturday when I can devote 100% of my attention to them.  While I was away at work I mentioned to someone that I was going to be making Macaroons and their response was, "Oh, I love coconuts!"  HUH?!?!? The recipe doesn't call for coconuts.  I also mentioned on fb about how I couldn't justify spending $12 on almond flour when a friend recommended a macaroon recipe that didn't call for almond flour.  Excited I went to check out the recipe only to be disappointed that they were not what I was intending to make.  Here it is folks,  I wanted to make Macarons not Macaroons.  There is a difference apparently.  Macarons are french meringue cookie sandwiches and Macaroons are those coconut things (culinary technical term).  Here is how it went.

Process almond flour, powder sugar  and cocoa powder.
You have to whip egg whites and sugar. 
My first attempt went flat.  Literally.  It shouldn't look like this.
It should look like this! I think the fist attempt failed because I didn't whip the egg whites long enough before I added the sugar. ( I told you I was impatient
Then you "fold" in the egg white mixture with the almond flour mixture.
Then you pipe the mixture on a baking sheet to a round shape and bake.
This is what it looks like when it come out of the oven.  This particular batch is not so pretty because I was experimenting with piping tips.  Don't use tips that are too small.  After making my second batch I ran out of powder sugar so I took a small intermission until Josh returned with my new bag of powder sugar.
I invested in some real vanilla beans! ($3.09 for one vanilla bean, yikes!)
Made some cream cheese frosting.  Can you see the vanilla specks?
Then you pipe the frosting onto the cookies and put the other half of the cookie on top!

I made 3 different kinds of Macarons, Red velvet that looks more pink than red (note to self, use more red food coloring next time) , Chocolate and Green Tea.  I ask Josh, "so what do you think?"  "They are really good but these are not Macaroons, they are whoopie pies."  I didn't want to get into a long discussion about the difference between Macarons and Macaroons, so I just agreed.  Josh and I ate a few ourselves and I brought the rest to work.  Let's just say there is none left.  I think it was a big hit and I will have to make them again.  I guess the rest of the almond flour will not go to waste and I will not have to re purpose the almond flour after all.

I made 3 batches so I actually have this recipe memorized now.

Inspired by here
(this makes about 12 cookies)
1 cup powder sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
2 egg whites
5 table spoons white sugar

Place the powder sugar and almond flour in a bowl and mix well and set aside. I used a food processor.  Beat egg whites until firm and start adding sugar slowly and continue beating for about 2 minutes.  To color the meringue just add a few drops of food coloring while beating.  Slowly fold in the almond mixture into the egg mixture.  Here is where you can add different flavors.  I added cocoa powder for chocolate and green tea powder for green tea to the almond mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  I drew a template for the rounds using the back of a coffee cup.  Flip the parchment paper over so you don't get pencil marks on your meringue.  Use the template to pipe round shapes on to the parchment paper and rack the baking sheet a few times on the counter so there are no air bubbles.  Bake for 15 minutes and cool completely.

Cream Cheese frosting:
(this makes enough frosting for all 3 batches)
1 package cream cheese (room temp)
1 stick of butter (room temp)1 vanilla bean
1 cup powder sugar

Split the vanilla bean and scrape off the vanilla bits and put into bowl.  Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl and beat until creamy.  Slowly start adding the powder sugar.  Here is where I might change things up next time and add some fruit preserves to flavor the cream cheese.  Maybe some orange or raspberry.

Place frosting in piping bag and pipe mixture on to the cookie.  Place the other half of the cookie and enjoy! 
Note: keep the Macarons in the fridge, they taste better after they have been sitting in the fridge for a few hours.

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